Resolve First Nations issues to curtail crime

Clive Weighill

Clive Weighill

January 26, 2015
BLAKE SITTLER
PRAIRIE MESSENGER

The main factor in producing crime is "the huge marginalization of the First Nations community," says Saskatoon's police chief.

Clive Weighill told a recent gathering at St. Anne's Church in Saskatoon the stereotypical story of a boy who grew up in a tough neighbourhood, who was poor and bullied.

"He goes to school with no breakfast. He fails a test," Weighill went on. "He's an outsider who is finally invited in by a gang. This friendship escalates quickly to criminal activity."

Gang involvement is connected directly to the fear and isolation many feel before joining, and to the power and belonging they experience after they do join, he said.

Weighill spoke at a Dec. 10 event organized by The Micah Mission, an ecumenical group helping those convicted of committing crimes to reintegrate into the community.

The police chief said he sees the issue of the large number of murdered and missing aboriginal women as both a criminal concern and a systemic issue of poverty, violence and a lack of education.

However, he disagrees with those who call for a national commission of inquiry.

"We know what the issues are, so let's act on them," he said. "If we spend five or six years on an inquiry, we're going to lose momentum."

Weighill said he and the police service are very keen on solving the issue of the exponentially high rates of violence against aboriginal women.

"If we can't solve this issue (of high rates of violence and crime in the aboriginal community) then we won't solve crime in Canada," he stated.

Weighill cited a June 2013 Saskatoon United Way study which tracked 23 people in the city who were the biggest cost to the civic and provincial system in terms of policing, arrests, health, emergency room visits and other social costs. These individuals used $2.8 million worth of resources per year.

"These costs drop dramatically when they are given access to treatment, support and housing," he said.

Weighill said the only way to move forward is for individuals and institutions to work together, but many policies prevent that from happening.

"We need to spend money on long-term programming," Weighill said, "but governments only work on a four-year term."